Cobrapost captures on-camera the confessions of perpetrators of six major massacres of poor, unarmed Dalits in Central Bihar, revealing how the Ranveer Sena militia planned and conducted these indiscriminate killings with impunity and how they twisted the long arm of the law, who trained them, who armed them, who financed them and who lent them political support.
In an year long investigation undercover operation, Cobrapost captures on-camera six commanders of the dreaded outfit Ranveer Sena, two of them declared innocent and set free by the Patna High Court for lack of evidence, confessing to their involvement in Six major massacres of Dalits in Central Bihar, namely,Sarthua(1995), Bathani Tola (1996), Laxmanpur Bathe (1997), Shankar Bigha (1999), Miyanpur (2000) and Ikwari (1997). In all, 144 were killed in these six massacres including several women and children. The six RS men are Chandkeshwar, Ravindra Chaudhary, Pramod Singh, Bhola Singh, Arvind Kumar Singh and Siddhnath Singh. These mass murderers not only reveal how they planned and carried out killings on such scale with precision and ruthlessness of a war machine but also candidly admit who trained them, who armed them, who financed them and who lent them political support, naming some big-time politicians. It was not a coincidence that the Justice Amir Das Commission of Inquiry was abruptly dismissed as soon as the JDU–BJP alliance came to power in Bihar, and Justice (Retd.) Amir Das categorically states that it was because his report could have implicated some prominent politicos for their support to the private army he was asked to close the shop without submitting a report. Perhaps, never in the history of Independent India was an inquiry commission investigating mass murders asked to demit office.
Their confessions also reveal the diabolical intention of the Ranveer Sena of carrying out massacres in 50 villages in a single day. Equipped with modern lethal weapons such as AK-47s, LMGs and SLRs, among others, and a capacity to strike at will at the place of their choosing, it is not difficult to imagine what havoc the private army of upper caste landlords could have wreaked on their miserable targets had they put the plan into operation.
Posing as a film-maker, supposedly working on a film on Ranveer Sena, Cobrapsot Associate Editor K. Ashish interviewed Chandkeshwar alias Chandreshwar, Pramod Singh, Bhola Singh Rai, Arvind Kumar Singh, Siddhnath Singh and Ravindra Chaudhry. All except Ravindra Chaudhry, were accused in Laxmanpur Bathe massacre. Ravindra Chaudhry was however mainly involved in the Sarthua(Bhojpur),massacre.which had taken place in the year 1995. Chandkeshwar and Pramod Singh have been set free by the Patna High Court, while Bhola Singh, Arvind Kumar Singh and Siddhnath Singh were let off the kook by the lower courts. Bhola Singh is still wanted by the Bihar Police and is hiding in the steel city of Tata Nagar in Jharkhand.
These confessions also make it clear that Ranveer Sena had the tacit support from political quarters both at the centre and at the state level. While a former prime minister purportedly helped them get modern lethal weapons such as LMGs, SLRs and semi-automatic rifles the Indian Army rejects and sells as scrap, a former finance minister apparently helped the outfit with finances. Another politician evacuated them in his car when they found the police closing in on them after a mass murder. Consisting largely of Bhumihar and Rajput landlords, the Sena cadre received training from army jawans either on leave or retired, as private donations from their supporters helped them buy weapons such as AK-47 by the dozen that were part of the Purulia arms drop in December 1995.
But before listening to the blood-curdling confessions of these mass murderers, a throwback to the emergence of the dreaded Ranveer Sena would be in order. To ostensibly counter the rising unrest among the farm labour who had started organizing themselves under the banner of CPI-ML (Liberation), and had started to refuse to do begar or unpaid labour in the farmlands of the upper caste landowners while demanding minimum wages, Dharicharan Singh of Belaur village in Bhojpur district formed a private army of the landowners. He christened this outfit Ranveer Sena after his kin, Ranveer Chaudhry, a retired army man. No sooner its command fell on Barmeshwar Singh, head of Bhojpur-Khopira village, it became a well-oiled machine, trained to kill, ruthlessly and indiscriminately, equipped with modern weapons like AK-47, LMGs, semi-automatic, SLRs and Mousers, with its support base spreading far and wide among the landowning upper castes. Within a span of next six years, the outfit executed 16 massacres killing 300 Dalits, men, women and children, even the unborn, across six districts of Bihar, namely, Arrah, Arval, Bhojpur, Gaya, Aurangabad and Jahanabad. The nation bowed its head in shame when the outfit killed 58 Dalits on the cold night of December 1, 1997. Among those killed were 27 women and 16 children. The ruthless killers of the dreaded Sena did not spare even the pregnant women, tearing their wombs open and putting the unborn to death.
This kind of psychopathic butchery was witnessed again in 2002 Gujarat riots when rioters tore open the wombs of pregnant Muslim women and cut the unborn into pieces in full public view as they rejoiced at their barbaric feat.
In another shocking judgment on January 14th, in this year. A lower court yet again acquitted all 24 accused of killing 23 Dalits in Shankar Bigha in Arwal district in 1999 on the eve of the Republic day. Similarly, in October 2013 the Patna High Court had acquitted all 26 Ranveer Sena men – including 16 who had been put on death row by the lower court – accused of killing 58 Dalits in worst-ever massacre at Laxmanpur Bathe on December 1, 1997. The Bathani Tola massacre case met the same fate on April 17, 2012, when the Patna High Court set all 23 RS men free who were accused of killing 21 Dalits, including 11 women and six children on July 11, 1996. The 32 victims of Miyanpur massacre of June 2000 must have turned and twisted in their graves when the Patna High Court allowed all 10 accused except one to walk free on July 3, 2013. These decrees have assumed a pattern and one wonders if the rest of the cases would meet the same fate in days to come for the recurring theme of these judicial pronouncements is lack of evidence.
Although we have dissenting voices among those who investigated the massacres. For instance, Dy SP CID (Retd.) Mirza Maqsood Alam Beg is quite categorical while averring that there was clinching evidence against all accused: “Dekhiye usmein direct evidence toh unke against tha hi eyewitness … logon ne dekha pehchana … uske alawa iss occurrence ke pehle un logon ke yehan meeting bhi hua karti thi meeting mein ye log attend karte the na haan inhi logon ke yehan meeting hua karti thi wo sab cheezein diary mein hain (You see, there is direct evidence against them … eyewitness … people saw them and identified them … apart from that before the occurrence [of a massacre] these people would hold meetings at their places … all these things are recorded in case diary).” Beg was the IO of the major massacre Laxmanpur Bathe and was responsible for filing the charge sheet. Based on such evidence the lower courts had awarded many of these murders death sentence and others life imprisonment.
These acquittals make one wonder if they did not kill more than 300 Dalits then who did? Shall one say then, although so many were murdered in these massacres, no one killed them?
In order to find if the perpetrators of such heinous mass murders were really as innocent as these pronouncements made them look, Cobrapost decided to track some of them down and see if they too declared they had no blood in their hands.
Assuming an alias and supposedly working on a film on Ranveer Sena, Cobrapsot Associate Editor K. Ashish travelled the length and breadth of Central Bihar and interviewed six RS strongmen who far from pleading their innocence confessed to have been part of five big massacres that their outfit executed: Bathani Tola, Laxmanpur Bathe, Shankar Bigha, Miyanpur and Ikwari. They in fact bear their inhuman deeds something like a badge of honour and relish the details of each massacre they executed. The six RS men are Chandkeshwar alias Chandreshwar, Pramod Singh, Bhola Singh, Arvind Kumar Singh, Siddhnath Rai and Ravindra Chaudhry. All except Ravindra Chaudhry were accused in Laxmanpur Bathe massacre. Ravindra Chaudhry was however mainly involved in the Sarthua(Bhojpur),massacre.which had taken place in the year 1995. Chandkeshwar and Pramod Singh have been set free by the Patna High Court, while Bhola Singh, Arvind Kumar Singh and Siddhnath Rai were let off the kook by the lower courts. Bhola Singh is still wanted by Bihar Police and is hiding in Tata Nagar, Jharkhand.
The on-camera confessions of these members of the Sena make it amply clear that the dreaded private army had political patronage both at the state and at the centre, and they drop a few big names including those of a former prime minister who helped the outfit get modern weapons that the Indian Army sells as rejected scrap, a former finance minister who is alleged to have helped the Sena with money and some political bigwigs belonging to the BJP who tried to influence the police probe.
Here are excerpts of the interviews that K. Ashish had with these mass murderers.
A commander of Ranveer Sena who led these massacres from the forefront is Chandkeshwar Singh. Put on life imprisonment by the lower courts for his involvement in Laxmanmur Bathe massacre but let off by the Patna High Court in Oct, 2013. Chandkeshwar Singh confesses not only to his involvement in the Bathani Tola massacre in 1996 in which he claims the private militia massacred 22 Dalits but also to have single-handedly beheaded five low-caste fishermen with his knife.
The assault on Bathani Tola was mounted in broad daylight at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon and it happened in the presence of a police chowki close-by. The details of how the massacre was carried out are as chilling as the nonchalance with which Chandkeshwar pouts them out.
Claims Chandkeshwar: “Teen baja aur humara sena goli chalana chaloo kar di… teen baje din mein narsanghar hua kar diya wahan police chowki bhi tha (As the clock struck 3, the Sena began firing … it was 3:00 at daytime …the massacre was carried out…there was a police chowki too).” Chandkeshwar gives the headcount of the victims: “Kuch laash usmein se bahar kheench liya tha farari admi ka tab par bhi laash wahan par bais spot par tha … haan bais log ka laash wahan par tha (Some bodies of those who were part of the assault had been cleared from there, but still there were 22 bodies on the spot … yes there were 22 dead bodies lying about).” The massacre was executed at the behest of one Gupteshwar Singh of Khandau village who sent a missive to Chandkeshwar informing him how the CPI-ML cadres were harassing the landlords and it was high time the Sena took action. But Chandkeshwar held a meeting in the village and took signature of all the villagers agreeing to the assault on Bathani Tola. “Uss gaon mein lejakar meeting karaye aur kahe ki aisa toh nahi ho sakta hai na ki hum kaam karwa ke Sena se aise chal de aap log doosre arth lagaiyega toh nahi toh poore gaonse signature kiya isme baad mien hum un sabka time diye teen baje Male waalon ke saath mein humara Sena teen baje ekdum gurantee ladega un sabke saath mein (We held a meeting in that village telling them that the Sena will not take up the assignment this way. Otherwise you may draw your own inferences about it. So we got the signature of the entire village and then we told them we will take on the (CPI)ML people at 3 o’clock).” In this daylight assault, the Sena also lost some of its militiamen.
The blood-curdling account does not stop here. Cocksure the long arms of the law would never reach him, particularly after the Patna High Court set him free for lack of evidence, Chandkeshwar goes on to confess with pathologic nonchalance how he beheaded five poor fishermen, supposedly CPI-ML supporters, at the Sone River, a few hours into the night when 58 poor Dalits, men, women, children and even the unborn, were gunned down or hacked to death in Laxmanpur Bathe, after his team of 32 Sena militiamen had made good their escape in a boat over to Bhojpur.
Claims Chandkeshwar Singh when the Cobrapost reporter asks him if they had killed five more people whose headless bodies were found about the river the next day: “Haan mundi kata tha (Yes, they were beheaded).” These poor fellows were running for their life after escaping from the scene of massacre but were caught by the murderous lot of the Sena. He did not deem it fit, says Chandkeshwar, to waste bullets on them. He simply beheaded them with his knife: “Gussa aa gya jaise goli se kyon maarega hum kyon goli kharch karenge chakoo mere paas hai hi sau do sau ki goli barbad karenge hum chakoo se hi isko kato … kaat diye (I was very angry at them. Why should I waste a bullet on them that is worth Rs 100 or so, I thought. Better use the knife I have. So I cut them down with it).” Confessing to his involvement in the most heinous of mass murders, Chandkeshwar gives an account of how they escaped to Bhojpur via the Sone after the Sena went on its killing spree in Laxmanpur Bathe that fateful night on December 1, 1997. He vividly remembers the time when the Sena launched its assault on the poor Dalits of the village with LMGs, automatics, SLRs and Mausers. “Samay dus … Hum log charh gaye the humara Sena jo tha 10 bajey wahan par hamla kar diya 29 minute net firing ka time hoga goli chala… (It was 10 when we arrived there and the Sena began the assault. The firing went for 29 minutes). The assault left 58 dead.
Another Sena commander whose name figures prominently in the investigations conducted by the state CID is that of Siddhnath, an aide of the Sena chief Barmeshwar Singh Mukhiya, Rai was in the decision-making body of the Sena and hence his involvement in all massacres either as a mastermind or as an executor is beyond doubt. However, Siddhnath proved to be a notch above law and is now a free bird. So self-assured Siddhnath is of the fact that they have circumvented the law of the land that he does not bat an eyelid when he owns up to his involvement in six major massacres of Dalits that Sena executed. Churning out details with cold-blooded apathy that only hardened criminals are known to possess, Siddhnath not only recounts the night of bloodbath that Sena had in Laxmanpur Bathe and who were behind it and who executed it but also names a former Prime Minister who had helped his outfit to procure arms.
“Toh ye hua ki bhai usko wahan se hatana ki zaroorat hai kahe ki mazboot pada hua hai wahan pe toh wahi hum log apna party ke sena kahiye satta kahiye kahiye un logon ko wahan ye kiya aur oo log wahan pe ghere donon taraf se counter hua jismein wo log mare gaye (So we decided to eliminate them (the CPI-ML). We should not allow them go stronger. So, our party, I mean the Sena, surrounded them. There was assault and counterassault in which they got killed).”
But before the assault on Laxmanpur Bathe, Sena held a meeting at Belaur village at Arrah to plan the move. Apart from him, present in this meeting were all the members of the core group including Barmeshwar Mukhiya, Vakeel Chaudhry, Bhola Singh, Shiv Narayan Singh and Krishna Nand Chaudhry. “Meeting toh huyi thi kaand se doh roj pehle … hua tha aapke Arrah district mein meeting … gaon toh Belaur mein huyi thi (The meeting took place two days before the massacre … the meeting was held in the Arrah district … took place in Belaur village).”
Opening further up to the Cobrapost team, Siddhnath reveals what he told the police while in custody how they got deadly weapons which only Indian military is authorized to possess and use. “Hum kahe oo hai LMG, MMG kaha oo aap kahan se uplabdh kiya hum kaha main uplabdh kiya tha jab humara pradhan mantri state ka huye the tab toh wo military ka rejected saman tha wahi hum logon ko uplabdh hua tha wo aapas mein baatcheet karta toh aap log deshdrohi hai kisi doosre se mangwa karke rakha hai hum kahe aisa nahi ho sakta hum log deshdrohi nahi ho sakte qatai nahi hum log desh hit ki baat karte hain toh tabhi saman kaise uplabdh hua hum kahe uplabdh hua tha jab pradhan mantri humare huye the kaun pradhan mantri hum kahe Chandra Shekhar … (I told them we have LMGs. They asked how we got them. I told them our Prime Minister got us it from Indian military as rejected lot. They called us traitors. I said no we are not traitors. We are doing it in the interest of the country. That is why we got the arms with help from our Prime Minister. They asked which Prime Minister. I said Chandra Shekhar …).”
And the conduit who got the so-called rejected lot of military weapons, according to Siddhnath, was Surya Dev, a powerful politician from Dhanbaad: “…ek nazdiki the … Surya Dev, Dhanbaad … toh Surya Dev babu wahan se military ka dher sara saman rejected le aye the aur unke paas se hum logo ko prapt hua tha (There was a close supporter of ours … Surya Dev from Dhanbad … it is Surya Dev who brought us a lot of rejected military weapons).” Sidhnath adds further: “Wo ghari pradhan mantri the Chandra Shekhar Singh aur Chandra Shekhar Singh se inka ekdum bhaichara ke jaisa sambandh tha wo aate the toh inhi ke yahan rukte the Surya Dev Babu ke yahan toh wahi hum log ko madad kiye the (In those days, Chandra Shekhar Singh was prime minister and Chandra Shekhar Singh was a very close friend of Surya Dev Babu and upon visiting he would stay at his place. This is how they both helped us).”
Refuting such a claim, Neeraj Shekhar, son of former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhara, claimed that his father did not hide anything from his family, although they knew Surya Dev very well. “Jaisa hum jante hain poora desh janta hai aisa kaam wo nahi kar sakte kisi sena ke liye (As I know so does the whole country, he would not do such favour to any Sena),” says his father of Chandra Shekhar.
Siddhnath also spoke about another of his confessions he had made to the police in custody of his involvement in Aibatpur massacre: “Hum kahe ki wo kaand hua tha wahan Aibatpur Kanpath thana mein wahan saat wo Mushar jaati ke log mare gaye the wo humare samarthakon ke dwara mara gaya tha ye baat satya hai theek na … (I told them about the massacre that took place in Aibatpur under Kanpath police station. Our men had killed seven people of Mushar caste …).”
This massacre was conducted by nine Sena militiamen, but 64 people were named in the FIR by the local police which ultimately helped the murderers get off the hook.
According to Siddhnath, there were nine leaders who formed the core decision-making body of the Sena. He confesses to his involvement in six massacres.
“Hum logon ne … hum log toh ek uss par mein Bathe Belaur huyi thi ghatna aur ek wo Chauri huwa tha aur (Laxmanpur) Bathe, Shankar Bigha, Narayanpur teen Miyanpur chaar Hyderpur paanch Jalpur chheh … Shankar Bigha Bathani Shankar Bigha Bathe ek ghatna hai aur Narayanpur teen ghatna tha …Arval mein aur chheh ghatna yehan hai yehi toh hai (We … one massacre was in Bathe Belaur, one was in Chauri, then (Laxmanpur) Bathe, Shankar Bigha, third was Narayanpur, fourth was Miyanpur, Hyderpur was the fifth … Jalpura was the sixth … Shankar Bigha Bathani Shankar Bigha Bathe was one … the third was Narayanpur and one was in Arval … in all six massacres).” Although it is somewhat difficult to decipher what he is jumbling out, the count of massacres that he purveyed is six, undoubtedly.
When the police asked him when he was in their custody how they could commit such murders with so much butchery, Sidhnath gave this bizarre logic behind indiscriminate killing of women and children: “Humare India mein humara dharm jo hai aisa nahi batata hai ki burhe ko marega toh paap nahi lagega aur jawan ko marega toh paap lagega … aisa koi kanoon nahi hai ki aap jawan ko maroge tabhi bees saal saja aur burhe ko maroge toh doh saal saja aur larka ko maroge tho pachas saal saja. Aisa koi kanoon nahi hai (In India, our religion does not say that if you kill an old man, you won’t become a sinner or that if you kill a young man you will become a sinner … then there is no such law which says that if you kill a boy, you will face imprisonment for 20 years, if you kill an old man you get 2 years jail or if you kill a child you get a term of 50 years. There is no such law).”
If Siddhnath could wriggle out of murder charges with some help from the police who named 64 people in the FIR thus making it difficult, nay impossible, to nail the real culprits, Arvind Kumar Singh of Ikwari village and his fellow Sena men browbeat the eyewitnesses and families of victims to settle for a compromise in two mass murders of Dalits and Muslims that they executed in 1996 and 1997.
Arvind Kumar Singh:
As if committing a mass murder was something to gloat over, Arvind Singh relishes every detail of the killings of his own fellow villagers first in 1996 and then in 1997. Confessing to his involvement in both murders, the Sena strongman from Ikwari tells when and how he and his fellow Sena murderers killed in Ikwari: “Haan Ikwari mein doh narsamhar hua tha … saat log aur nau log mare gaye the (Yes, two massacres took place in Ikwari … seven and nine people were killed).” Adding further he says: “Pehla narsamhar mein saat log mare gaye … doosra mein aath-nau log tha … ek 96 mein hua ek 97 mein hua (Seven were killed in the first massacre … in the second eight–nine people were killed … one happened in 1996 and the other took place in 1997).” Arvind Singh maintains that both Ikwari massacres were the handiwork of the local Bhumihar villagers only. They were planned and executed locally by them, Barmeshwar Mukhiya and the Sena had no role, as Arvind Singh says in a self-implicating manner: “Usmein mukhiyaji nahi the … ismein toh Ikwari ke log hi the … haan total Ikwari ke bahar ka koi nahi … na na Sena toh khud Ikwari mein paanch sau ghar hum log the … aur ek-ek ghar se ek-ek aadmi nikal jata tha toh aise hi Sena ban jata tha … Sena ka humko koi zaroorat nahi tha … jahan paanch sau ghar Bhumihar ho aur maan lo ki do sau ghar se bhi ek-ek aadmi nikal gaya toh aise hi Sena ban jaati thi (Mukhiyaji [Barmeshwar] was not there … only the villagers of Ikwari were involved … yes total[ly] from Ikwari, there was no outsider involved … no no Sena … we have 500 households in Ikwari … and when a member from each family would come out we would have the Sena ready … we never needed the Sena … when you have 500 families of Bhumihar and if only a man each from 200 families volunteered we had the Sena assembled).” Arvind Singh not only could thus assemble a force as big as this on short notice but also had ready a stockpile of modern weapons to accomplish a mission, and when the caste-class enemy was within the precincts of their village the task was easy. Says Arvind Singh of their preparedness: “Hathiyar wagerah sab ghar mein tha … hathiyar toh … bachav ke liye toh sab kuchh khareed rakha tha na … kuchh mehnga hathiyar khareeda tha (Weapons and other things were already stocked at our homes … we had bought weapons for safety … we had also bought some expensive weapons … ).”
Although an accused in both massacres, Arvind Singh and other murderers managed to wriggle out of the reach of the long arms of the law by forcing a compromise on the families of the victims. Claiming that there are no cases pending either against him or against other murderers of Ikwari, he tells how they managed to stay free: “Na na hum sab compromise karwa liye … hum log gaon mein jitna case tha … hum log ke ooper chahe un logon ke ooper keh sun kar chahe laathi danda ke bal se … sab samajha bujha ke sab compromise hai (No, no. We managed to clinch a compromise with them in all cases … we persuaded them with cajoling or show of force to come around and arrived at a compromise with them).” As a result all cases were withdrawn.
Another member of this gang of ruthless killers is Pramod Singh. An accused in the mass killing of Dalits in various massacres that his outfit carried out, Pramod Singh too has been let off by the Patna High Court. But he is still incarcerated in Arrah jail for his involvement in some other crime. Cobrapost reporter met him in the jail, and in this interview the murderer did not flinch even for moment while recounting his involvement in these mass murders. He unabashedly confessed to his involvement in the Miyanpur massacre that his outfit carried out in June 2000 in Aurangabad district. Here is why and how the Ranveer Sena conducted the assault on Miyanpur and killed 32 Dalits and Muslims, in his own words: “Gaon jo tha Naxali support gaon tha Ranveer Sena ke target par bahut pehle tha uss karya ko log anzam diya (That [Miyanpur] village was the supporter of the Naxals and was thus on the target of the Ranveer Sena. We executed that massacre).” The assault was led by none other than Barmeshwar Mukhiya himself as Pramod Singh mumbles an affirmative double “Hoon, hoon” when he is asked if the Sena supremo led the massacre.
When the Cobrapost reporter asks him if he could tell him of any such massacre in which he took part along with Barmehswar Mukhiya and others, he replies: “Miyanpur tha … bahut log tha wo bhi tha (It was Miyanpur [massacre] … there were many … he too [Barmehswar Mukhiya] was there).” The assault party had 10 members of the Sena led by Barmehswar Mukhiya of whom nine were sentenced to life imprisonment but only to be allowed to walk free by the Patna High Court some years later.
The Ranveer Sena’s acquisition of modern weapons like LMGs as army scrap gave it an overwhelming edge over the CPI-ML whose support base mainly came from the socially and economically marginalized sections of rural Bihar, mostly landless Dalits and other low-caste farmhands. A prominent BJP leader supported the dreaded outfit with finances. Says Pramod Singh: “Bhajapa ka sarkar jiss samay tha … Atal Behari Vajpai the … uss samay the Yashwant Sinha … barabar aate the … mukhiya ji se barabar milte the … wo toh humare gaon mein hi … jiss samay chhapemari ho rahi thi uss samay barabar humare gaon mein the (It was when there was the BJP government [at the centre] … there was Atal Behari Vajpai [as prime minister] … there was Yashwant Sinha … he would visit regularly … meet the Mukhiya [Barmeshwar Singh] regularly … he was there in my village when the police were hot on our heels and raiding our places. ” We again get an affirmative double “Hoon, hoon” when we ask him if Yashwant Sinha knew what they were doing or what they were up to. What kind of support they got from Sinha?
Both monetary and political, we get the reply. Here is what he claims of the help the then finance minister purportedly lent the outfit: “Paise se … sarhe paanch lakh ([He] gave us money … Five and half lakh).” Any other kind of support? “Aur kya support karega … jo bhi rajnaitik support jo hota hai (What else support he could lend … other than political support),” quips Pramod Singh somewhat piqued.
The fact that Ranveer Sena had ample political support is borne out not only by the on-camera confessions of these functionaries of the dreaded outfit but also by the interview that Cobrapost had with Justice Amir Das, the former judge of the Patna High Court and the chairman of the commission of inquiry the state government had set up on December 27, 1997 in the wake of Laxmanpur Bathe massacre and outrage it had caused across the country.
Although reticent in his response, Justice Das does not shirk away from naming those who tried to scuttle the probe or influence the police: “Kuchh ka naam toh bata sakte hain jaise Shivanand Tiwary hain, C.P. Thakur hain. Murli Manohar Joshi hain aur Sushil Kumar Modi aur ek mikhiya the naam tha unka uss gaon mein Laxmanpur Bathe ke bagal mein conclusion aya hai ki wo bhi support karte the (I can tell some names, for instance, Shivanand Tiwary, C.P. Thakur, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushil Kumar Modi. Then there was a head of a village in the neighbourhood of Laxmanpur Bathe about whom we had drawn the conclusion that he too supported [the Ranveer sena]).”
The former chairman of the enquiry commission elaborates how these leaders, particularly Murli Manohar Joshi, tried to browbeat the police to fall in line: “Ab jaise ek gawah aya kaha ki Murli Manohar Joshi aaye the humko dhamka gaye hain ki jara theek se rahiyega theek se investigation toh kijiyega power mein ayenge aapko batate hain … iska matlab ye hua ki wo under pressure jakar ki wo hum unse kuchh karwa lein (We had a witness who said that Murli Manohar Joshi had threatened him asking him to behave and if you conducted investigations properly when we come to power you will have it. This all meant to get things done favourably by putting the fellow under pressure).” The witness was an Investigating Officer of the stare police. The commission issued a notice to Murli Manohar Joshi. Justice Das reveals how Murli Manohar Joshi intervened to influence the police investigations: “Yahan pe ek IO ko aap aye hain massacre ke baad … Senari gaon mein ye gaye hain raid karne aapko khabar mili aur aap aate hain aur IO ko dhamkate hain ki agar aapne aisa kiye toh hum power mein ayenge toh aapko batate hain aur parinam ye hua ki under threat aapne usko rukwa diya baad main jab jirah hua toh palat gaye (He visited after the massacre. The IO had gone to Senari to conduct a raid. He came to know about it and came to see the IO threatening him if he did what he was set to do he would have it when they would come to power. This is how he stopped him from discharging his duty under threat and when he was cross-questioned he denied it).”
Apart from political support right from the ruling dispensation at the centre, the Ranveer Sena had staunch supporters in strongmen like Anand Mohan Singh and Arun Kumar. Pramod Singh recounts how Jahanabad LJP MP Arun Kumar would help them escape the police net after they had executed a mass murder: “Farar stithi mein … jaise maan lijiye police gher li … paanch chheh logon ko nikalna hai jsaise Arun Kumar the saansad Jahanabad saansad wahan pahunch jaate the apni gadi se jo log tha sabki nikal dete the … (When on the run … suppose the police had laid siege of us … five–six people were to be evacuated … then Arun Kumar, the MP of Jahanabad, would reach the spot and would escort away all of them in his car … ).”
However, when the Cobrapost sought his reaction to the claims made by the former Ranveer Sena commander, Arun Kumar was candid in his admission to his acquaintance with Pramod Singh. The Rashtriya Lok Samata Party MP would have nothing to do with Ranveer Sena either, saying: “Humne kisi ki koi madad nahi ki aur na hi Ranveer Sena ki kabhi koi madad ki (I never helped anybody … and I never helped the Ranveer Sena).”
When the nation wondered aloud about the source and purpose of the Purulia arms drop on December 17, 1995, an immediate beneficiary was the Ranveer Sena which got such lethal weapons as AK-47 by the dozen. Says Pramod Singh: “Jaise Purulia mein gira … Purulia se bahut hathiyar aya yahan par (There was this arms drop in Purulia … we got a lot of weapons from there).”
Another Ranveer Sena strongman who has blood of scores of innocent in his hand and whose name figures prominently in the CID report is Bhola Singh. After many days of search across Bhojpur district, Cobrapost team got a tip off on his whereabouts. Still wanted by Bihar Police, the former commander of Ranveer Sena is now living incognito with his family in the steel city of Tata Nagar. Cobrapost reporter interviewed him there in his hideout, in which he confesses to have taken part in the killing of 58 Dalits at Laxmanpur Bathe: “Saath pachas ko wahi par mara tha Laxmanpur Bathe mein (We killed about 50–60 people then and there in Laxmanpur Bathe).” He says this was the most important massacres of all that his outfit carried out:
“Laxmanpur Bathe ko hi bolta hai wo do gaon hai ek hi hai Laxmanpur Bathe ko hi bolta hai … adhikansh hatya kiya humne wahan par bahut (I consider Laxmanpur Bathe the most important [of all massacres] … that is a twin village … there I killed many people).” According to him there were 100 members of the Sena who launched the assault that was led by one of his nephews: “Uska lead kiya tha Ekwari ka hi humara ek bhatija tha Santu naam tha (The attack was led by one of my nephews, Santu, from Ekwari village).” Barmeshwar Singh, the Sena chief popularly called Mukhiya, was also part of the assault team as Bhola Singh replies in an affirmative “Ji (Yes),” when the reporter asks if Barmeshwar Singh and he himself were among the attackers. “Haan hum bhi the (Yes I too was there),” he says with a sense of pride.
Bhola Singh recounts the assault on Laxmanpur Bathe: “Nadi ke uss paar Bathe hai aur iss paar hum log hain toh … idher se udher wo apna aata jaata tha Sone mein ussi ka nav tha nav se idhar udhar aa jaata tha aur idhar kuch crime karke chala jata tha … hum logon ko bhi aisa laga ki udhar se aa raha hai toh kahe nahi uss ke gaon mein charh jai wahi par chhipa hoga charh jai plan bana diyye charh gaye aur jakar soye hue the sab soye mein sab pakda gaya sab mara gaya hum logon ka wahan par kuch casualty nahi hui (There is [Laxmanpur] Bathe across the river and we live on this side of the river. They [CPI-ML] would come here and go back. They had their own boat by which they would cross the Sone, come to our place and commit some crime and return. We thought since they come from that side of the village, why should we not mount an assault on it. They must be taking shelter there. We worked out a plan and launched the attack. All were sleeping and were caught by surprise and killed. We suffered no casualties).”
The assault on Laxmanpur Bathe was launched with semi-automatic weapons as Bhola Singh claims: “Hum logon ke paas tha semi-automatic (We were carrying semi-automatic [weapons]).” Undoubtedly, such weapons cannot be owned legally.
In our pursuit to dig more and more about murderers of Ranveer Sena, the Cobrapost team met Sanjiv Singh, general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Rashtravadi Kissan Sangathan, the Sena in its new avatar after it was banned, and Shailedra Vatsayan, spokesperson of the outfit. Sanjiv told us about one Upendra Magiha who he says was commander-in-chief of the Ranveer Sena who at the behest of its chief Barmeshwar killed hundreds of people: “Upendra Magiha Ranveer Sena ke jo hathiyar band log the unka wo command karte the un karraviyon mein aur wo hain … Magiha bahut seedha aadmi hai … jo sahi mein jo saikadan hatya kiya hai wah aadmi bahut seedha aur saccha aadmi hai (Upendra Magiha used to command the armed squad of the Ranveer Sena during those operations … and he … Magiha is a simple fellow … the man who has murdered hundreds is really a very simple and innocent fellow).” Cobrapost team was able to locate Magiha, the Most Wanted murderer of the lot, he refused the interview, however.
However we approached Bhola Singh for his reaction he blatantly denied about his involvement in any of the massacres and in fact stated that he was paralytic during the occurrence of those events and was not present on ground zero. He however acknowledged the fact that members of Ranveer Sena were indeed involved in those massacres.
One of the prime accused in the massacres of Dalits in 1995, but set free by the courts, Ravindra Chaudhry has no qualms while confessing to his involvement in all major massacres of Dalits in Bihar which were executed by his outfit Ranveer Sena upon his nod. He proudly accepts the role he played in planning, of course along with the then Sena chief Barmeshwar Mukhiya, such massacres. We come to know from him that the Ranveer Sena had actually planned to execute as many as 50 massacres in a single day.
“Hum log toh aisa ranneeti banaye the ki ek hi din mein pachas gaon mein narsamhar ho tab jaaker sarkar ki need tootegi nahi toh sarkar toh bas yehi soch rahi hai ki ek desh mein alpsankhyak hain ati pichhri hain pichhri hai iske alawa koi jaati hi nahi hai (We had in fact worked out a strategy to execute massacres across 50 villages in a single day to wake up the government from its torpor. Otherwise, the government will always think that no castes other than the minorities, most backward and backward live in this country),” says Chaudhry of the diabolical plan of the Sena, spewing the caste hatred that has left thousands of Dalits dead so far in Bihar.
The Cobrapost reporter met Chaudhry at Belaur village in Bhojpur who opens up to divulge all what was unknown to the larger world about the working of Sena, training of its cadre by active army men on leave and the support it garnered not only from its sympathizers to buy arms and put in place required logistics for a planned operation but also from the likes of Anand Mohan Singh.
He says of the role Anand Mohan Singh played in instigating the upper caste landlords and their militiamen while offering them arms of any kind and caliber: “Jo naujawan neta ata tha bujurg nahi naujawan neta jaise Anand Mohan aaye bechare poora keh gya ki humare paas hathiyron ka jakhira hai jo jo hathiyar lena chahte ho aaker le jao (One young leader called Anand Mohan came and told us that he has a cache of all kinds of arms. Whatever you need you can pick).”
Anand Mohan Singh is incarcerated for the murder of a District Magistrate. So, Cobrapost spoke to his wife Lovely Anand. Claiming such allegations were a conspiracy, the MP’s wife, who herself is a former MP said: “Humara in logon se koi relation nahi raha hai (We had no relation whatsoever with them)”
In this interview, Chaudhry comes across as the one who used to order the death squads of the Sena to undertake a particular operation as his confession makes it undoubtedly clear what role he played: “Humare kehne se anzam mane anzam maan lijiye hum anzam nahi diye lekin huqam toh humi na diye maan lijiye kaam humen nahi kiya hatya nahi karte hain lekin kahe ki hatya karo toh hum hi na kiye ([the massacres were] executed upon … you can say I did not execute them but it was me who ordered. You can say I did not execute the job, I did not kill, but when I ordered to commit a murder then I did it).”
A couple of minutes later he makes it even more clear thus: “Saath pachas logon ko hum log bheje the doosre gaon mein lekin wahan koi nahi mila toh doosre gaon mein kiya (I dispatched a squad of 50–60 members to a particular village, but they did not find a single soul there and execute the order in another village).” Such missions were carried out with modern weapons like LMGs and SLR which were procured with help from all possible quarters: “Sab hai sab hathiyar hai sare logon ne madad kiya hai donate kiya hai daan mein diya hai paisa se bhi (We have all kinds of weapons. All people have helped us, donated us the arms. We have also bought with money).”
The Sena militia was trained in the use of such armory by jawans of Indian army on leave or retired. Says Chaudhry: “Training military ke jawan log karate the … jo hum logon ke military ke aadmi hain wo chhutti par aate the toh oo dete the … maan lijiye ki itna bada gaon hai toh chaar sau do sau military ke jawan hain … gaon mein agar ek do bhi aa gaya toh kaam chal gaya ladne le liye log … (We have men in military and they used to give training when on leave … this village is large enough and there are about 200–400 men in military … if we get one or two men from each family we get enough men to fight ).” This kind of training and modern weaponry was put to a deadly effect by the outfit in massacre after massacre.
Chaudhry has no remorse of killing women and children in such raids by the Sena. Says Chaudhry, “Haan haan karan ki jahan bheja jaata tha wahin log jaate the ab maan lijiye ki aapko bheja gaya ki doh thoh paka aam tod ke laiye aur oo danda chalaya ped par toh aath tho paka gira panch tho kachcha gir gaya toh usko kaat diya jayega ki kachcha tod diya … bheja gaya ki hatya kijiye jawanon ki aur jawanon ke saath bachcha mil gaya toh uska bhi safai kiya toh kauno payment par nahi hai ki uska payment kaat liya jayega usko dandit kiya jayega (Yes, the reason is our men will go wherever they were told to go … now suppose you are asked to pick a couple of ripe mangoes? You hit the mango tree with a stick … as a result eight ripe mango fall and along with them 5 raw mangoes also fall. Now should you be punished for felling raw mangoes? we send our men to kill the young able-bodied and if some children also get killed along with them should they be punished … they are not on payroll so as to punish them by cutting their payments).” This is how a neurotic Chaudhry put the collateral damage that his militia caused as they went about butchering defenseless women and children, even unborn.
We find an echo of what Chaudhry says in our interview with Shailendra Vatsayan,
The spokesperson of the Akhil Bharatiya Rashtravadi Kissan Sangathan: “Idhar se logon ne kaha teri chhattees inch ki atadi hai na … chhattees ke jawab mein chhattees inch phad denge hum tumko kya tumhari auraton tak ko phad doonga jisase kabhi koi bhavishya mein baccha na jane (Our men also said if you got an intestine of 36 inches … we will tear up the whole of 36 you got. And not just you, we will also tear your women … so that they will never give birth in future).”
And the Sena murder squads did just that: killed their women and tore up their wombs so they would never bear children who would embrace Naxalism when grown up and become a source of threat to their hegemony, both social and economic. Someone had called these kinds of mass murders ethnic cleansing, and in India there are certain communities which have been persecuted for ages as their blood is expendable, so is their right to life and dignity, held inviolable in the country’s Constitution, and still there would be no mass protests against such barbaric acts or clamour for an SIT probe by civil society of any hue.
If the state police of Bihar fumbled on probing these crimes against humanity, for obvious reasons, so that the cases could not be taken to their logical conclusion, as is obvious from the confessions of the Ranveer Sena commanders interviewed by Cobrapost on how they managed the law, the state political executive saw to it that nothing clinching was established against the perpetrators of these massacres or their mentors in the political establishment. As a result, the Justice Amir Das Commission of Inquiry was bundled up one fine day abruptly. The reason of this sudden volte-face on part of the state executive under the new dispensation of the JDU—BJP alliance was unmistakable: the commission had got to the bottom of the political support that the Ranveer Sena was getting and there were many bigwigs from the BJP both at the centre and at the state level whose names were doing the rounds as mentors of the monstrous private army raised by Bhumihar—Rajput landlords.
Justice Das explains why the government wrapped up the commission unceremoniously: “Uss samay achanak ruk gai, bina kisi notice ka bina kisi report ka. Aap isse submit kar dijiye matlab without any ultimatum … Chief Minister Nitish sarkar ka gathan hua usmein Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi the, toh Nitish toh ismein involve nahi the toh unka naam nahi aya tha, lekin Sushil Kumar Modi ka naam aya tha, Sushil Kumar Modi RSS ke, RSS kya, RSS ke kaha jaye, uske ki BJP party ke bahut saare log jo aye the, un logon ka naam bhi tha… (It was closed down all of a sudden, without any report or notice. I was not asked to submit the report either. I mean it was done without any ultimatum. When Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s government was formed, Sushil Kumar Modi was Deputy Chief Minister. Nitish was not involved in it so his name did not crop up. But Sushil Kumar Modi’s name did crop up along with many from the RSS or say from the BJP).” The Cobrapost has a copy of the report of the commission.
The acquittals have been challenged in the Supreme Court and thus the cases are subjudiced. This investigation was undertaken by Cobrapost only to bring forth some dark truths about such crimes against humanity which would have remained in dark otherwise.
Cobrapost contacted Murli Manohar Joshi, CP Thakur and Susheel Kumar Modi for their reaction to Justice Ameer Das commission but didn’t receive any comments from them till the time of going to the press. Ex finance Minister Yashwant Sinha didn’t respond to Cobrapost emails.